Fire danger to increase to 'very high' as temperatures rise


Fire danger to increase to 'very high' as temperatures rise

MISSOULA, Mont. - The fire danger scale may be at "high" now, but tomorrow's temperatures will send that gauge up to "very high." 

One thing NBC Montana found out Monday is that heat is only one influence in the fire danger.

Missoula firefighters say we are in the three hottest weeks of the summer for western Montana so they make sure they are prepared.

"We keep our crews a little closer at hand, extra crews at times can be brought on, so we prepare for it," explains Battalion Chief Dave Wolter.

A high danger level means crews can control fires and damage to property likely would be limited.  A very high level means fires can be hard to control and some homes and businesses could easily be damaged or destroyed.

According to the Northern Rockies Coordination Center, this year there have been 467 human-caused fires, which have burned over 3,000 acres and lightning has caused 137 fires, spreading over 2,000 acres.

Human activity is a factor in determining the fire danger rating.

"As of now, with all the different components that we evaluate, we have sticks that we monitor, and we monitor the weather and we monitor how people's behavior is with fire," said DNRC Public Relations, Jordan Koppen.

Dry vegetation also plays a major role.  Right now, a fire can grow out of control quickly in this dry hot weather.

"As fire danger increases, fire activity increases, so it's that much more hazardous for the crews and for the public if a fire does start," said Wolter.

The fire department explains that their biggest concern is getting the fire out as quickly as possible before it spreads out of control.

The DNRC shared some precautions people need to take.

"We want people to be careful with towing vehicles, chains dragging, any outdoor use, parking in grasslands, because things have really cured and dried out," explained Koppen.

With the danger level rising Tuesday, burn permits will be invalid, but there are no restrictions on campfires yet, so people should really make sure they are paying close attention to them if they decide to have one. The DNRC suggests having a bucket of water, a shovel and making sure you touch the fire after you put it out to make sure the ground is cold.

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